As in many cities around the globe this week, Key West, Florida’s citizens organized a peaceful protest on June 2nd. The island is known for their slogan “One Human Family.” In that spirit community members gathered to march through the flowered streets of this tiny island.
As they walked, a man who owned a time share on the island came out of his apartment, and began screaming racial slurs. He focused his remarks on one Latina woman named Mina Valdez.
“You’re part of the problem,” she repeated to him, as he shouted insults to her.
The next day, community members organized another protest. This time is was staged in front of the man’s time share apartment. They called for him to vacate the property and the island.
Then, something no one expected happened. The man came out of his apartment, and said he wanted to listen, and to dialogue with the woman whom he had confronted. She agreed, and they sat down to talk.
The conversation ended with reconciliation and an apology from the man who spoke so harshly. Perhaps he had an awakening – if not about the seeds of racism, then at least about tolerance.
This small exchange is a huge example of hope and the possibility for positive change.
Here is Mena’s post on Facebook:
In every situation, there is always an opportunity to learn. Whether you do so voluntarily or a whole community rallies together until you do. Mr. Schmid reached out and wanted an opportunity to have a conversation. I introduced myself, and I was able to explain how he made me feel. I talked, and he listened to every word I said. He talked, and I listened to every word he said. The best thing you can do in these situations is to have a conversation and hope that both sides, while they may not agree, can understand each other. Mr. Schmid showed genuine remorse for his actions. He apologized not only to me, but he did so in front of his beautiful multiracial family. He understood that his words were hurtful. He allowed me to confront him; to say what I needed to say. This city has shown how one little spark can ignite a fire. If only more places can handle injustices the way Key West did. Key West, I am so proud to call you home. Instead of turning a cold shoulder to Mr. Schmid and his family let’s show them that, while Key West will not tolerate hate, we are willing to forgive mistakes. Let’s show them that we are One Human Family!
Mina Valdez, Key West, June 3, 2020